Factors in Learning a Language
There are a number of factors that determine how long it will take you to learn a language. Depending on your language background, you can become fluent in another language in as little as three months, or it may take you years. Every person is different, and the time it takes to learn a new language is based upon how much time you can devote to studying, your natural ability to learn languages, and your ultimate goal in learning the language. The more time per week you can spend learning a language, the faster you’ll be able to reach your goal. If you want to become fluent in a language within the year, you should devote at least a few hours per day to studying. How fast you learn a language is also dependent on the languages that you already know and the language that you are learning. If you are a native English speaker, then learning Dutch will be the easiest language for you to learn because of the similarities between the two languages, whereas learning Mandarin Chinese will be more challenging and take longer to pick up. If you speak a romance language, then learning another romance language (like Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or French) will be a relatively rapid process.
The methods that you use to learn your target language will affect how quickly you learn a language. Interacting with native speakers and practicing speaking is always faster and more effective than passive learning, like reading or using tapes. If you can find a tutor to work one-on-one with you, then you can learn a language much faster than if you’re learning in a large group of people. When you learn one-on-one you can set the learning pace. Make sure not to take too many breaks from learning a new language until you’ve reached your goal. Taking a vacation from your study plan can mean losing a lot of the information you worked so hard to remember. One of the best ways to learn a language in the fastest possible time frame is to sign up for a full immersion program, or to actually travel to and live in a community that speaks your target language. You can usually learn to speak a language within a year using this method.
Creating and keeping learning is an important part of learning a language, and will ensure that you learn the language within the time frame you need to. If you want to become proficient within six months, then set goals to learn and remember a couple new phrases per day, or practice reading a newspaper article in your target language once a week. Carrying on a five-minute conversation with a native speaker after a month of learning is a goal that will build your confidence in using the language and keep you on track to learning the language as efficiently as possible.
Damin Chu is a freelance writer, whose writing has taken her down a number of avenues. In 2008, she returned from Shanghai, China, where she served as the managing editor of a China travel guide, in addition to writing travel features for the local newspaper. Her other projects have included writing for a Shanghai expat guide, a education documentary, and an environmental NGO.